Remembering Pearl Harbor attack 79 years later

HONOLULU — The surprise attack at Pearl Harbor 79 years ago Monday, called “a date which will live in infamy” by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, will have a different kind of ceremony this year.

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Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pearl Harbor’s annual Remembrance Day ceremony will be closed to the public and streamed online on the National Park Service page beginning at 7:40 a.m. Hawaii time.

“America’s obligation to honor its veterans has been a sacrosanct pillar of our society, and we encourage everyone to join us virtually for this important ceremony,” Scott Burch, acting superintendent of Pearl Harbor National Memorial, said in a statement.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 7:50 a.m. Hawaii time at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial’s Contemplation Circle. A moment of silence will be observed at 7:55 a.m., the moment Japanese fighter planes strafed the battleships at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, plunging the United States into World War II.

According to the National Park Service, the Pearl Harbor area was designated a national historic landmark in 1964 for its strategic importance related to the United States’ annexation of Hawaii. Thirty years later, Congress designated Dec. 7 as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

The attack, which lasted 2 hours, 2 minutes, killed 2,403 Americans, according to the Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau. The attack was masterminded by Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, who thought of the attack, and Capt. Minoru Genda, who planned it. The idea for an attack came from a book written in 1925. In “The Great Pacific War,” author Hector Bywater showed how a fictional attack on the U.S. fleet by the Japanese could potentially pull America into a war.

The actual attack left the Pacific fleet in ruins.

The casualties included 2,008 Navy personnel, 109 Marines, 218 Army service members and 68 civilians. Of the dead, 1,177 were from the USS Arizona, which quickly sank after being pierced by two bombs. More than 900 men remain entombed on the ship, which rests on the sea floor in the harbor. The wreckage of the Arizona now serves as the main memorial to the attack.

Fifty-five Japanese soldiers also were killed.

Here are some of the numbers from that day:

  • 353 Japanese aircraft
  • 40 torpedo planes
  • 103 level bombers
  • 131 dive bombers
  • 79 bombers
  • Four heavy carriers
  • 2,403 U.S. personnel killed including 68 civilians
  • 19 ships destroyed or damaged
  • Three aircraft carriers were not in the harbor and were spared
  • 29 Japanese aircraft destroyed
  • 5 Japanese small submarines destroyed
  • 129 Japanese military members killed
  • One Japanese soldier taken prisoner

The exact number of survivors from the Pearl Harbor attack remains unclear. Only two survivors of the USS Arizona are still alive, according to USA Today. Donald Stratton, a sailor on the USS Arizona who was burned due to the attacks, died in February, according to Stars and Stripes.

Lou Conter and Ken Potts are the battleship’s remaining survivors, according to Stars and Stripes. Conter, 99, a retired lieutenant commander, was given a drive-by salute for his birthday in September, according to The Union of Nevada County, California. Potts, a Missouri native also in his late 90s, moved to Utah in 2011. He was loading fruits and vegetables for the crew of the Arizona when the attack happened. He climbed into the ship and helped evacuate all of the wounded sailors.


Posted by USS Arizona on Sunday, December 6, 2020
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